GUANGZHOU, China Another Chinese automaker is planning to come to the United States.
BYD Auto Co. wants to start volume exports of its own brand cars to the United States and Europe in the second half of next year or early 2009.
The automaker says it will display plug-in hybrids and electric cars at the Detroit auto show in January.
BYD Auto joins a handful of small Chinese automakers with bold intentions to enter the United States. But the safety and emissions standards are stiff, and the automakers are small with inexperienced engineers and marketers.
BYD Auto, based in Shenzhen, has a history of brash predictions. For instance, the company has said it will be Chinas biggest-selling automaker by 2015. But this year its sales will reach about 100,000, about one-half the production of one assembly plant in the United States.
The company sells gasoline-powered cars now but is targeting hybrids and battery-powered cars. Its parent company, BYD Co., is a leading rechargeable-battery maker in the global market.
We will display all of our models in Detroit next year, and the battery car will be our highlight, says Xia Zhibing, BYD Autos sales general manager. We need to go to the top markets in the world.
Hybrids and electrics
The company plans to produce a plug-in hybrid model in the second half of 2008 and bring purely electric-powered cars to market in 2009.
Hybrid cars use gasoline or diesel engines and one or more electric motors to power the wheels. A plug-in hybrid can recharge its batteries with household electric current to reduce the need for gasoline.
BYD Auto makes startling claims about its hybrids. The company says its first plug-in hybrid, the F6DM, will have a range of 267 miles on one tank of fuel, with a maximum speed of about 99 mph. The car will be able to go 62 miles powered by batteries alone, the company says.
BYD Auto says the battery pack can be recharged about 2,000 times, sufficient for seven to 10 years of operation. It needs nine hours for a full recharge by home power but only about 10 minutes for a 50 percent recharge with a special power station.
Xia says the F6DM may sell for about 200,000 yuan ($26,700).
The company hasnt announced details about its planned electric cars. The company says its battery and hybrid cars are powered by a type of lithium-based battery called lithium iron phosphate.
BYD Autos spokesman, Wang Jianjun, says BYDs batteries and hybrids have not been tested by an independent third party. BYD is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
A source at a company also working on batteries in China and a competitor of BYDs said lithium iron phosphate batteries have various problems. They are heavy, costly and difficult to mass-produce with consistent quality.
BYD also may have patent conflicts if it tries to sell the batteries in the United States, the source says.
Xia said BYD Auto is talking with distributors in the United States and Europe, but he declined to reveal their names.
Xia says the company hopes by 2015 to stop using internal combustion engines and only produce battery-powered cars. He also says BYD Auto plans a full line of products, including two SUVs and two multipurpose vehicles in the coming two years.